Posts Tagged ‘classical music’

Music & Memory

January 7, 2011

Reeds – photograph by Liz Mathews

Ever since the last waltz of the New Year’s Day concert from Vienna faded away – actually the Radetzky March, as always – I’ve been enjoying the Mozartfest on Radio 3.  It’s a good time of year to play ‘every note he wrote’, and it’s evidently very popular, perhaps especially with the audiences who listen to classical music in the background for much of the time.  But the programmers must feel a certain sense of can’t win, when their own Radio Times – which usually complains vociferously at any ‘challenging’ or overtly contemporary music – now condescendingly describes this Mozart-feast as ‘saccharine’.  (Obviously not listened to Don Giovanni recently…)

What I’ve found most moving, among all the pleasures of the season so far, is the huge personal importance of this music to so many people.  It means so much, not only in itself, but in the memories it carries.  Far more than any Proustian madeleine, certain pieces of Mozart conjure up the past, by evoking experience, feeling, character, emotion, with such subtlety and irresistable truth.

We’ve heard of people roused from coma by a favourite concerto, or comforted in their pain by the sublime music, of its effects of enlightenment or transfiguration, and in particular of its power to communicate.  This is so profound that the usual boundaries between so-different people become fluid, or even vanish entirely, until there seems to be an invisible community of listeners united in their feeling for Mozart’s work.

In an unexpectedly touching way the Play Mozart for me request programme in the evenings has shown how – in that altered state of listening – so many people remember the music-lovers who they have loved, and feel close to them even if they’re far away or long dead, with a certainty that somehow they must hear such heavenly music too.